Customer Service; Where have you gone?


You read a lot of articles today about how companies are working hard to improve customer service and brand loyalty. Despite optimistic reports and predictions; the economy is still lagging. Unemployment remains high across many parts of the country and most families are forced to plan how each and every dime will be spent. I am no different. I choose carefully the brands and businesses I give my money too and do not hesitate to take my cash somewhere else when customer service is poor. As a business owner myself I am well aware of the bureaucratic circus that comes with finances, shipping, and product delivery. However I also know that customers really don’t care and aren’t interested in what it takes to “get it there.” They want what they paid for and they want it to arrive when you say it will. In this day and age it’s very simple; if you can’t deliver someone else will be glad to.

So why is it just so damn hard to get any kind of service these days? Recently I had three experiences with poor customer service that will stick with me for a long time to come and display vividly the lack of care and concern that is becoming so prevalent in many businesses today. It seems that some companies have taken on an attitude of “screw it, what are you going to do?” It’s almost as if they believe because they don’t have to face you; they don’t have to do what they say they will. After all it’s not like you can reach through the phone and strangle them is it?

Our first example of stellar service comes from a very familiar brand of magazine, one that until this incident I purchased regularly. Back before Christmas my girlfriend bought a subscription to MensHealth magazine for me. This periodical is published by the Rodale group from Pennsylvania. She also ordered 12 months of WomensHealth for herself and was told in writing that the first issue would arrive in 6-8 weeks. Now at first this number seems a little farfetched but you must realize that magazines are actually printed up to two months ahead of time and bulk shipped through the USPS in a class that is timed to arrive a month later.

Sometime around week 12 we started to get a little impatient and contacted the company. MensHealth replied and even promised to rush the current issue out along with a complimentary gift for our troubles. WomensHealth never replied. By week 16 nothing had arrived and we had had enough and called to cancel the subscription and get a refund. At first the service rep actually argued with us about it; saying the issues had shipped and arrived. I thought this odd that he could make a claim like this from 800 miles away over a phone. Cooler heads prevailed though and a refund was given. The first issue finally arrived 22 weeks after ordering it and after we cancelled the subscription. I’ve gotten four since then.

The second experience occurred because of a catchy YouTube marketing video promising great razors at a fraction of the cost of store bought ones. I was skeptical at first but after checking around determined this company and its razors were real. So I signed up with “The Dollar Shave Club,” for a recurring plan of four blades a month for $6. At the time of order I was informed due to the overwhelming response that I would not receive my first shipment until May 5th. I don’t shave every day, preferring to grow out stubble during the week so after checking my inventory of blades decided this would not be a problem. May 5th came and went, then the 6th and on and on. On the 10th I found their Facebook page and the long stream of angry posts from customers who like me had been waiting since the end of March for their blades. I initially wondered if they were indeed a scam, so I emailed the company and was told there had been a production delay and my blades would arrive that week.

Well that was 10 days ago and still no blades. I have canceled my membership with them and do not expect to recover my $6. At first you might say well its just $6 and you’re right, but if a company cannot be counted on to deliver then what good are they. Regardless of the price, you as a consumer deserve to get what you pay for. Any business that takes your money but does not deliver has stolen from you pure and simple. They’ve abused your trust and more importantly hurt business as a whole. Will I ever again sign up for mail order blades from the internet? No, I’ll buy my blades at the store so that when I go home I have what I paid for not a string of promises and shipping dates that have come and gone. As of this morning the list of angry customers who have not received their shipments grows. I was promised three times that my own blades would arrive that week. Dollar Shave club your blades aren’t “Fucking Great!” They’re just fucking not there!

Finally my last experience is still ongoing and surprisingly enough involves something I didn’t pay for at all. On May 5th I was informed that I had been chosen the winner in the “Potomac River Running, Saucony Fan of the Month Contest.” As the winner I was entitled to a pair of brand new just released Saucony Kinvara 3 running shoes and a prize pack. I was asked for my shipping information and shoe size and informed that day that they would “get my killer prize pack in the mail, soon!” A week after winning I emailed “Potomac” to inquire about the arrival date of the shoes but mostly to see if I could choose a color. I was informed that nothing had shipped and that a Saucony rep would contact me “soon!” Again here was this word “soon.” To me soon means, well it means soon, as in right away as in we’re getting right on that, not “when we get around to it.”

Unfortunately I was never contacted by a Saucony rep. After contacting the company myself I received no reply or explanations. You might wonder to yourself, “geez buddy what’s the hurry?” It’s really simple you see, we’re about to move and I want the shoes before we do. Also I would think that a company that’s giving away shoes to put the word out about their great new product, would want that great new product in the hands of its winners as soon as possible so they can show them off and tell others about them. The real point is not the shoes folks but the fact that I cannot get any kind of firm answer from anyone involved in this process. That’s just not acceptable in business. A definite “hey we don’t know” beats “soon” any day of the week. “Soon” tells me you’re brushing me off and stalling, or worse you have no idea what you’re talking about and are back peddling. If I had paid for these shoes I’d be furious right now and so would you, just think about it. I guess after being screwed over so many times by crappy service that I just have no patience or tolerance for anyone I perceive to be jerking me around. It also reflects on a person’s character I believe. Too often I feel we’re molded into impotent sheep by people telling us to wait, to be patient. The real effect is that we’re building up a tolerance to being taken advantage of and misled.

Maybe Amazon has spoiled us, it’s hard to say. Over the last twenty years I’ve watched delivery times even through the USPS dwindle from weeks to a few days. If you live in the continental US there’s nowhere a package cannot get to you in a week. More importantly though as a business myself I learned a long time ago that you never ever, ever send something through the US mail. There is just too much that could go wrong and no accountability behind it. Now I know that many businesses today use the mail to save on money and I can’t blame them but do you really save money when you lose customers to lost or late delivery. Your customers are your life blood and you damn sure better be willing to bend over backwards, work all night, and FedEx that package to keep your word. Your reputation and future as a business is only as good as your word and right now I see quite a few companies in this nation that aren’t worth a dime. It floors me to see so many people talking about the demise of American business as if there’s some unsolvable mystery to it. It’s no mystery folks. Service sucks these days and its only getting worse. I ordered a pair of shoes recently from an English shoe company. Due to low stock the shoes had to be shipped from the plant in England and they arrived in 3 days. I ordered Protein Powder from Wal-Mart last Tuesday from Arkansas, I live in Tennessee and it still hasn’t arrived, enough said.

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